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What do Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, and Charles Darwin all have in common? Other than being some of the most influential and successful people of their field, of course. They are all people who are neurodiverse. In fact it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodiverse.
The term neurodiversity refers directly to diversity within our brains. There is no one way to experience and interact with the world, and neurodiversity is the umbrella term for all of the different ways people can think, learn, and interact. A few of these conditions include Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD, and OCD, as well as many others.
“Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome…Everyone is to some extent differently abled (an expression favoured by many neurodiverse people), because we are all born different and raised differently. Our ways of thinking result from both our inherent “machinery” and the experiences that have “programmed” us.” - John Elder Robinson, a scholar in residence and a co chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William & Mary
When it comes to business, many characteristics of neurodiverse people are huge advantages and unique strengths that they bring to the table - especially when it comes to entrepreneurial ventures. Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, says “We find the ability to focus and be loyal are strong autistic traits, while being creative and an out-of-the-box thinker is a dyslexic’s contribution.”
In fact, did you know that most of the traits that are most common in being a successful entrepreneur are also some of the most common traits of a person who is neurodiverse? Let’s take a look at a few of the ways neurodiversity is an advantage when it comes to business.
A common misconception for people who are neurodiverse is that they lack focus or are prone to becoming distracted - actually it could not be more the opposite. People with ASD or ADHD typically are able to concentrate on a singular task for extended periods of time, and can even enter into a state called Hyper-Focus when it is in a subject they are truly passionate about. This is “the ability to sustain rare levels of intensity and focus on activities and projects that capture their interest.” With Eagerness to Learn being one of the top traits of a successful entrepreneur, according to Forbes, this ties hand in hand with the ability for people who are neurodiverse to intently focus on something that they are passionate about. By being eager to learn everything about a subject, it means that the individual is far more accomplished and well-rounded as a business person.
Entrepreneurs often have to have the ability to juggle multiple different hats at the same time - especially when a business is early on! Especially for people with ADHD, multitasking is an area where they can truly thrive - especially when a mundane task is combined with a task the entrepreneur is truly passionate about. It’s a great way to take the overwhelm of doing something boring or stressful away for the ADHD brain, and it means that the tasks are more likely to be completed.
Entrepreneurs have aggressive competition these days, and with competition comes the need for new and invigorating ideas. People who are neurodiverse have incredible creative skills, and pretty much invented the term “thinking outside the box!” With an overactive mind comes an overabundance of thoughts and ideas, and within them are gems of possibilities, resources, and methods that other neurotypical counterparts may not have thought of.
“Being a dyslexic entrepreneur…I live in a constant stream of creativity, I’m never short of ideas for my next move in business and every idea is imaginative.”
Like most people, neurodiverse are fundamentally fulfilled when they are pursuing their interests. So for neurodiverse people, it is really ideal for them to become entrepreneurs as they can literally carve a career out for themselves based on their own interests. In fact, one research study has shown a genetic connection between individuals with ADHD and entrepreneurial tendency. This also goes for people on the autism spectrum, as they develop “intense and highly focused interests from a very young age…and often like to share their knowledge.” This passion spills over into a neurodiverse person’s work ethic, as they are driven by their passion - and once again this is stated by Forbes as one of the top traits of an entrepreneur.
Neurodiveristy Celebration Week is coming up fast (March 21st-27th, 2022), and it truly is a time to celebrate yourselves, friends, family, employees, and colleagues who may be neurodiverse. It’s a time to step back and look at how inclusive your work culture is, and to see where improvements can be made. Technology is always evolving, and there will almost always be something new that may be helpful to a person who is neurodiverse - whether it be for focus, time-management, structure, or different methods of training. With so many methods at your fingertips, there really are very few barriers for neurodiverse people to achieve their full potential and join the ranks of business moguls because of their diversity, and not despite it.